December 7, 2009
(1:28 p.m. EST) -- After two years of construction, the newly completed Mahogany Bay terminal in Roatan finally began welcoming ships earlier this week. The brand-new facility (it's not part of the existing Coxen Hole cruise terminal) joins Costa Maya and Grand Turk as the third something-out-of-nothing port designed specifically to appeal to cruise passengers.
The $62 million result of a partnership between Carnival Corporation and Roatan businessman Jerry Hynds, the 20-acre, two-berth Mahogany Bay terminal includes retail stores, bars and restaurants, as well as shore excursion options for the 8,000 passengers the facility can accommodate. The port has already hosted Seabourn Legend, Crown Princess and Carnival Valor, and 200 more calls are expected during the next year from lines like Holland America, Costa and P&O.
Unique to Mahogany Bay is a new chairlift attraction, which offers visitors unlimited rides for $5 a day and transports them to nearby Mahogany Beach, a 10-acre private island. According to a member poll on our message boards, nearly half of the 269 respondents said they'd like to try the ride, while just 12 percent said they wouldn't be that lazy.
Mahogany Bay is not the first terminal built exclusively for cruise ships and cruise travelers. The trend began in early 2001, when Costa Maya opened its doors to visitors. Previously, the location had been an undeveloped area whose only settlement was the nearby village of Majahual (population: 200). The original infrastructure built for cruise passengers included pools, bars, restaurants and shops. Since that time, cottages for workers -- who come from elsewhere in Mexico -- and shore excursion areas have been added.
Following in 2006 was Grand Turk -- another Carnival Corporation-sponsored initiative that carried a whopping $60 million price tag. Although it's still largely considered an off-the-beaten-path destination, the island (one of just eight inhabited islands in the 40-island Turks and Caicos chain) now boasts retail shops and recreation areas that offer everything from horseback riding to fly fishing.
Now, Mahogany Bay has come on the scene as the third of these manufactured playgrounds for cruise travelers. Just how popular Roatan's new port will become remains to be seen, but as cruise lines seek to expand their offerings, especially in the heavily traveled Caribbean, the trend of creating new cruise ports out of undeveloped areas remains a fashionable one. We'll keep you posted.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor